Last updated: 27 September 2018
On 31 July 2018, our staff in Brazil were notified of an audit conducted by the Regional Superintendent of Labor and Employment for the state of Minas Gerais on working conditions on local farms. This investigation revealed slavery-like conditions on one UTZ certified coffee farm, Fazenda Fartura. We were first alerted to the situation through the Brazilian NGO Reporter Brasil and after contacting local government representatives, immediately launched our own investigation.
The UTZ certificate for Fazenda Fartura was immediately suspended (on August 1st) by the authorized certification body, as per our protocol. Upon further investigation, the farm was decertified on 24 August. The neighboring farm, Varjao, was also decertified on the same day, as it officially employed the 18 workers identified in the labor audit. The reported conditions on both farms are a clear violation of our standard.
Further, UTZ immediately allocated staff and resources to investigate other potential cases in the region and help ensure that workers’ rights are respected. Our local authorized certification bodies conducted 30 surprise audits in areas that were identified as high-risk. The focus of these audits was on working conditions requirements of the UTZ Code of Conduct. As a result of our investigation, one additional farm (Olho d’Agua) was decertified on 19 September. Additionally, we have informed the most affected UTZ members of these actions.
UTZ is a certification program that aims to make sustainable farming the norm. Workers’ rights and well-being are of the utmost importance and are an integral part of our standard. The UTZ standard has strict requirements on forced labor and other topics regarding working conditions, based on the International Labor Organization conventions. These requirements cover a wide spectrum of topics, including the prohibition of forced labor, child labor and discrimination, access to clean drinking water, sanitation and health care, and the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. In addition, compliance with local labor law is mandatory. To become certified, a producer must pass an annual audit carried out by a local, authorized certification body. The certification bodies must follow strict rules specified in the UTZ Certification Protocol.
We believe that standards alone cannot solve most labor issues. Ours is a joint effort with producers, certification bodies and other actors in the supply chain. Without these other actors, including governments, companies and NGO’s, certification standards cannot resolve these challenges alone, as the root causes require a fundamental social, political and cultural change.
We remain committed to improving working conditions on certified farms in Brazil and around the globe. In close collaboration with local and global stakeholders, we will continue to do our part in bringing these challenging sectors to a more sustainable reality.